the Order of the
Thelemic Golden Dawn
(Order of the T\G\D\)
By David Cherubim
(Frater Aurora Aureae)
Copyright © 1992 e.v.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The Ageless Wisdom
The origin of the Tarot is unknown. It is often associated with the Ancient Egyptian Mysteries and is said to be a development therefrom. The oldest Tarot cards known today were prepared in 1392 for King Charles VI of France by Jacques Gringonneur, painter, astrologer and qabalist. In England the Tarot was known in the reign of Edward IV during the fifteenth century. The Gypsies say that their people originally brought the secret knowledge of the Tarot from Chaldea and Egypt into Israel and thence to Greece. In the Middle Ages, Tarot was often used for fortune telling, especially by the Gypsies.
According to a famous tradition, the Tarot was created in the year 1200 A.D. This tradition states that the creators of the Tarot were a group of enlightened Adepts who met in the city of Fez which, after the great Library at Alexandria was destroyed, became the intellectual capital of the world to which came wise men of all nations speaking various tongues. Their meetings were made difficult due to the differences in their languages and philosophical terminology. So they determined to contain the most important of their teachings in a book made of universal symbols, based on the data of the Holy Qabalah. Although the historical and traditional theories differ, the Tarot is clearly influenced by the Holy Qabalah, and the Qabalah itself is said to be of Egyptian and Chaldaic origin.
Court de Gebelin of the eighteenth century was the first to make the curious suggestion that the Tarot might be of Egyptian origin. The "Marseilles Deck" originated from the Tarot cards depicted in Gebelin's book called, "Le Monde Primitif," published in the year 1773 e.v. Tradition states that Tahuti, the Egyptian Lord of Magick, was the inventor of Tarot.
Tahuti is Thoth in the Coptic, Hermes in the Greek, and Mercury in the Latin. Tahuti is the great Logos and Messenger of the Gods. Originally, Tahuti was a Lunar God, and Luna was looked upon as the great source of magical power in the Ancient Egyptian Mysteries, but later He became identified with the Planet Mercury, which is generally recognized as the Planet of Magick. Tahuti is the Ibis-headed God. The Ibis was a symbol of concentration because this bird was supposed to stand motionless upon one leg. Thus the Ibis represents the meditative spirit.
In the language of Occult Psychology, Tahuti, or Thoth-Hermes-Mercury, represents the Superconscious or Universal Mind, the true and living source of all the Mysteries of the Universe. Each of the twenty-two Major Arcana cards of Tarot are called the Atu of Thoth, that is, the House or Key of Thoth. The Tarot is the Temple of the God Thoth, or the Universal Mind, wherein He speaks to the soul of the initiate. The symbols of Tarot are the language of the Universal Mind. By proper use of these occult symbols the initiate can make inner contact with the Universal Mind and expand upon his/her knowledge of the Universe, Nature and WoMan. Thoth-Hermes-Mercury is said to be the traditional founder of all the Sciences and Arts. In other words, he represents that Great Self in WoMan who is the inner source of all Wisdom and Creativity. The Tarot is his Ageless Book of Universal Symbols, designed to instruct the minds of men with the Ageless Wisdom of the Gods, of which Thoth-Hermes-Mercury is the Messenger and Scribe.
In the circle of initiates, wherein is concentrated the illustrious spirit of the Ageless Wisdom, it is perceived that the Tarot is of ageless origin, for its symbols represent certain universal principles which are eternal in nature. The Tarot was never created and it shall never die, for it represents the Eternal Book of Life, of which all forms of Tarot are intended to symbolize. The Book of Life was formed out of the infinite, not as a material form, but as part of the infinite itself, partaking of its own nature, wherein it reveals its own Self or communicates its own Essence. To read into the Book of Life is to understand the operations of infinity and to commune with the Ageless Wisdom. This book is a record of all that was, is, and is to come, wherein are written letters of fire by the Great Scribe of the Gods, Thoth-Hermes-Mercury.
In Tarot, the Atu called "The Magus" or "The Magician" represents Thoth-Hermes-Mercury. Yet every figure in Tarot, every archetypal image, is a hieroglyph of one of the cosmic aspects of Thoth-Hermes-Mercury in his divine function as the Messenger of the Gods. Thoth-Hermes-Mercury is the Logos, or the Grand Word, which is the Great Arcanum itself. The Great Arcanum is nothing more and nothing less than WoMan hirself. Thoth-Hermes-Mercury is the Perfected WoMan or, in Qabalistic language, He is Adam Qadmon, the Archetypal Man. He is actually an androgynous figure, a combination of male and female.
The Tarot is the Hermetic Book of the Dead, with Thoth-Hermes-Mercury as its sole guide. By proper use of the Tarot, we can indeed pass through the various portals of the Underworld to attain the Sublime Life of Immortality. The Underworld is simply the Subconscious Mind within. Thoth-Hermes-Mercury is the Superconscious Mind or the Inner WoMan, which guides the soul through the various portals within and leads to the sublime heights of Universal Immortality and Eternal Wisdom.
The Tarot is the most occult of all the Hermetic Sciences. Occult implies something concealed behind a symbol or form, but the symbol or form is what represents the concealed. Occult symbolism is used to indicate invisible realities or laws of Nature. The arcane symbols of Tarot denote invisible forces, which operate in the soul of WoMan, governing and influencing his/her every thought, word and deed. WoMan is the receptacle of innumerable cosmic forces and the universal symbols of Tarot represent those infinite forces in Nature. Thus the Atu of Thoth are powerful keys by which to understand the essence behind all form and symbol, to intuitively realize the inner meaning of it all.
The images of Tarot are pictorial reflections of celestial archetypes in the Collective Unconscious, and by contacting and communing with these inner archetypes we can partake of the Sacred Gnosis, or the Secret Knowledge of the Gods. In Tarot can be discovered the inner mysteries of all things, the living facts of all that ever was, is, and shall be. Tarot allows us to extend our vision of the Universe, to perceive new dimensions of thought and reality. With Tarot, we can see the real and essential nature of things, hidden beyond the veils of matter; it is a most practical means to achieving the life of Light, Wisdom and Understanding.
The images of Tarot can be studied and meditated upon to acquire a more creative understanding of each individual force in the self and Nature, for the symbols of each card of Tarot are material reflections of the spiritual forces operating within the psyche of an individual. By applying oneself to the proper study and meditation of each card, one can realize in consciousness the inner meaning behind every phenomenon, perceiving in that realization the cosmic order of all things; in other words, the Tarot is a Magical Link to the Universal Consciousness.
The Tarot is a highly scientific, philosophical and psychological tool. It is designed for the initiation of mankind, and its mysteries are eternal in the Light of the Golden Dawn, in that Sublime Splendor wherein all initiates partake of the Supreme Sacrament of the Eternal Spirit. By applying Tarot correctly to the essential development of our own psychological and spiritual understanding of the forces of the Universe, we can indeed receive the Divine Influence of the Stars, to partake of its radiant Wisdom, to nourish our souls with the Secret Life of Thoth-Hermes-Mercury which is the Eternal Life of the Immortal Gods.
Eliphas Levi, that Old French Magus, stated the following informative words concerning the Divine Science of Tarot: "The Tarot is a book which epitomizes all sciences, while its infinite combinations can solve all problems; a book which speaks by evoking thought; the inspirer and controller of all possible conceptions; the masterpiece, perhaps, of the human mind and undoubtedly one of the finest things which antiquity has bequeathed us."
"The Tarot is a truly philosophical machine which prevents the mind from going astray, even while leaving it its own initiative and freedom; it is mathematics in their application to the absolute, the alliance of the real and the ideal, a lottery of thoughts, all of which are rigorously exact, like numbers; in fine, it is perhaps at once the simplest and grandest thing ever conceived by human genius."
"The Tarot is a veritable oracle, and replies to all possible questions with precision and infallibility. A prisoner, with no other book than the Tarot, if he knew how to use it, could in a few years acquire a universal science, and would be able to speak on all subjects with unequaled learning and inexhaustible eloquence. The oracles of the Tarot give answers as exact as mathematics, and as measured as the harmonies of Nature. By the aid of these signs and their infinite combinations, it is possible to arrive at the natural and mathematical revelation of all secrets of Nature. The practical value of the Tarot is truly and above all marvelous."
In the book "Morals and Dogma", by Albert Pike, we read the following on page 777: "He who desires to attain to the understanding of the Grand Word and the possession of the Great Secret, ought carefully to read the Hermetic philosophers, and will undoubtedly attain initiation, as others have done; but he must take, for the key of their allegories, the single dogma of Hermes, contained in his Table of Emerald, and follow, to class his acquisitions of knowledge and direct the operation, the order indicated in the Kabalistic alphabet of the Tarot."
It has been suggested that the word Taro is derived from the Egyptian terms Tar (Way or Road) and Ro (King or Royal). Thus the Tarot is the Royal Road or Way of the King. It has further been suggested that the word Taro is derived from the Latin term Rota (Wheel), which is the root of the word Rotation. The Taro is the Rotating Wheel of Nature. It is the Wheel of Life. (See the example of the Wheel on the Fortune Atu of Tarot, Major Arcana X.) The name of the Angel who is set over the operations of Tarot is HRU. Consider the fact that this name HRU is identical with Heru.
There are 78 Cards in Tarot. Of these there are 56 Minor Arcana or Lesser Secrets which represent the Ten Sephiroth of the Tree of Life operating in the Four Qabalistic Worlds or Four Philosophical Elements (Cards 1-10), and the individual operation of the Four Elements in each of the Four Qabalistic Worlds (Court Cards). There are also 22 Major Arcana or Greater Secrets, which correspond with the 22 Paths on the Tree of Life. 78 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word MEZLA, which is the Divine Influence of the Stars, the Radiant Spirit of the Logos (Thoth-Hermes-Mercury). MEZLA is the Holy Spirit of the Great Archangel Metatron, and it is the descending Divine Influence of Kether. It is the channel through which Macroprosopus reveals Himself to Microprosopus. 78 is also the numerical value of AIWASS (AIWAS). In Thelemic Philosophy, AIWASS is MEZLA or the Descending Influence of Horus, the Crowned God of Kether, the Lord of the New Aeon.
In Tarot, Wands represent Fire, Cups represent Water, Swords represent Air, and Pentacles represent Earth. The Minor Arcana that portray these elements represent those elements in various modes of expression, whereas the Major Arcana represent the inner mysteries of the so-called element of Spirit. The Minor Arcana correspond with the four letters of the Tetragrammaton, whereas the Major Arcana correspond with the Hebrew Letter Shin, which represents Spirit.
The Ten Sephiroth of the Tree of Life correspond in Tarot with the Minor Arcana. The four aces are Kether; the four twos are Chokmah; the four threes are Binah; the four fours are Chesed; the four fives are Geburah; the four sixes are Tiphareth; the four sevens are Netzach; the four eights are Hod; the four nines are Yesod; and the four tens are Malkuth. Each of these Minor Arcana cards represents the operation of one of the Sephiroth in a particular element. For instance, the Six of Wands represents the operation of Tiphareth in the element of fire; for the Wand is a symbol of fire. The Cup cards represent the operation of the Sephiroth in the element of Water; the Sword cards represent the operation of the Sephiroth in the element of Air; and the Coin or Pentacle cards represent the operation of the Sephiroth in the element of Earth.
The Four Face Cards or Court Cards (Figures of Nobility) also correspond with the Holy Tetragrammaton (IHVH) and the four Magical Elements. The Knight (or King) is Yod and Fire, the Queen is Heh and Water, the Prince is Vav and Air, and the Princess is Heh final and Earth. These represent a family of forces symbolized by Father, Mother, Son and Daughter.
The word Taro is composed of four letters. Four is the number of the Tetragrammaton, and ten is the number of its mystic extension represented by the Ten Sephiroth of the Qabalistic Tree of Life (1+2+3+4 = 10 = the Ten Sephiroth of the Tree of Life). In Atu X is contained and written all the mysteries of Taro, that is, all the wisdom of the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life. Proper and persistent meditation on this Atu of Thoth should yield infinite fruits of wisdom and knowledge, for in it are the keys to the attainment of the Universal Mind.
The twenty-two Major Arcana (Major Secrets) of Tarot are the twenty-two Forces of Nature indicated by the twenty-two Hebrew letters and the twenty-two Paths of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. Eliphas Levi of the nineteenth century recognized a subtle connection between the twenty-two Major Arcana cards and the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew or Angelic Alphabet. This fact constitutes a most important link between the Qabalah and Tarot.
The twenty-two Major Arcana or Atu of Thoth are linked with the Ten Sephiroth of the Tree of Life and the Twelve Astrological Signs. Twenty-two in Occult Mathematics is the number of the Circle. The Circle represents a complete manifestation and cycle of universal forces. The Circle is a symbol of the Whole Universe: it is the Wheel of Taro. There are twenty-two essential forces that constitute the Universe, which are the real elements of our conscious and subconscious lives. The Major Arcana are symbols of these real elements which we may use to penetrate the Veil of Isis, to partake of the Supreme Sacrament of Eternal Wisdom.
The following is a proper listing of the Ten Sephiroth and their corresponding Tarot Trumps: Kether is The Fool; Chokmah is The Magus; Binah is The Priestess; Chesed is Fortune (or The Wheel of Fortune); Geburah is The Tower; Tiphareth is The Sun; Netzach is The Empress; Hod is The Aeon (or Judgement); Yesod is The Hanged Man; and Malkuth is the Universe (or The World).
The following is a proper listing of the Twelve Astrological Signs and their corresponding Tarot Trumps: Aries is The Emperor; Taurus is The Hierophant; Gemini is The Lovers; Cancer is The Chariot; Leo is Lust (or Strength); Virgo is The Hermit; Libra is Adjustment (or Justice); Scorpio is Death; Sagittarius is Art (or Temperance); Capricorn is The Devil; Aquarius is The Star; and Pisces is The Moon.
The Major Arcana have certain esoteric titles in the Golden Dawn. These esoteric titles should offer you more insight regarding the nature of each Atu. Atu 0 is called "The Spirit of the Aethyr"; Atu I is called "The Magus of Power"; Atu II is called "The Priestess of the Silver Star"; Atu III is called "The Daughter of the Mighty Ones"; Atu IV is called "Sun of the Morning, Chief among the Mighty"; Atu V is called "The Magus of the Eternal"; Atu VI is called "The Children of the Voice: the Oracle of the Mighty Gods"; Atu VII is called "The Child of the Powers of the Waters: the Lord of the Triumph of Light"; Atu VIII is called "The Daughter of the Lords of Truth: The Ruler of the Balance"; Atu IX is called "The Prophet of the Eternal, the Magus of the Voice of Power"; Atu X is called "The Lord of the Forces of Life"; Atu XI is called "The Daughter of the Flaming Sword"; Atu XII is called The Spirit of the Mighty Waters"; Atu XIII is called "The Child of the Great Transformers: The Lord of the Gate of Death"; Atu XIV is called "The Daughter of the Reconcilers, the Bringer-forth of Life"; Atu XV is called "The Lord of the Gates of Matter: The Child of the Forces of Time"; Atu XVI is called "The Lord of the Hosts of the Mighty"; Atu XVII is called "The Daughter of the Firmament: the Dweller between the Waters"; Atu XVIII is called "The Ruler of Flux and Reflux: The Child of the Sons of the Mighty"; Atu XIX is called "The Lord of the Fire of the World"; Atu XX is called "The Spirit of the Primal Fire"; and Atu XXI is called "The Great One of the Night of Time."
The Paths of the Tree of Life also have esoteric titles in the Order of the Golden Dawn. These are derived from the Qabalistic text called the "Sepher Yetzirah" or the "Book of Formation." These are called the Yetziratic Intelligences of the Paths of the Tree of Life and give further insight into the nature of each Path and its corresponding Atu of Thoth. The eleventh Path of Aleph is called "The Scintillating Intelligence"; the twelfth Path of Beth is called "The Intelligence of Transparency"; the thirteenth Path of Gimel is called "The Uniting Intelligence"; the fourteenth Path of Daleth is called "The Illuminating Intelligence"; the fifteenth Path of Tzaddi is called "The Natural Intelligence"; the sixteenth Path of Vav is called "The Triumphant and Eternal Intelligence"; the seventeenth Path of Zayin is called "The Disposing Intelligence"; the eighteenth Path of Cheth is called "The Intelligence of the House of Influence"; the nineteenth Path of Teth is called "The Intelligence of the Secret of all the Activities of the Spiritual Being"; the twentieth Path of Yod is called "The Intelligence of Will"; the twenty-first Path of Kaph is called "The Intelligence of Conciliation and Reward"; the twenty-second Path of Lamed is called "The Faithful Intelligence"; the twenty-third Path of Mem is called "The Stable Intelligence"; the twenty-fourth Path of Nun is called "The Imaginative Intelligence"; the twenty-fifth Path of Samekh is called "The Intelligence of Probation or Temptation"; the twenty-sixth Path of Ayin is called "The Renewing Intelligence"; the twenty-seventh Path of Peh is called "The Active or Exciting Intelligence"; the twenty-eighth Path of Heh is called "The Constituting Intelligence"; the twenty-ninth Path of Qoph is called "The Corporeal Intelligence"; the thirtieth Path of Resh is called "The Collective Intelligence"; the thirty-first Path of Shin is called "The Perpetual Intelligence"; and the thirty-second Path of Tav is called "The Administrative Intelligence."